Friday, April 19, 2024
15.1 C


My Account

- Advertisement -

Natural gas a way to cut emissions

It’s hard to move left or right these days without bumping into a protest.

Throw in some industrial action from both public and private sectors, and it feels like everyone and their dog is holding up a placard about something.

Or maybe they are glueing or chaining themselves to a surface or structure. There have been plenty of increasingly frustrated Wellingtonians who have vented their spleen at Restore Passenger Rail protesters who have blocked roads in the central city, with one person even trying to drive past the latest blockade via the footpath yesterday morning.

The group was sitting on The Terrace, not too far from the Beehive, and some either frustrated or bemused members of the public gathered to heckle, calling them idiots and swearing at them.

I couldn’t help but think that news coverage of a protest about passenger rail, or the lack of it, would have been laughable not that many years ago. Not so today, in an environment of ongoing debate about the environment.

Interestingly, a new independent report says that New Zealand’s renewable energy transition should be backed up by domestically produced natural gas rather than imported high-emissions coal. That piece of information is not what many would describe as rocket science, but it’s an important conclusion nonetheless.

The report by Energy Link, commissioned by Energy Resources Aotearoa, says New Zealand could have prevented 3.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions from electricity generation between 2017 and 2021 if largely imported coal was replaced by domestically produced natural gas.

The report goes on to conclude that if we switched all coal-fired electricity generation to natural gas today and half of the North Island’s coal-fired industrial process heat was converted to natural gas, New Zealand would avoid 1.8 million tonnes of emissions by 2030.

That is the equivalent of taking over 93,000 cars off the road. In a helpful correlation of statistics, the report finds that New Zealand has enough natural gas resources to meet this demand. Imagine that.

Not that we should take too much notice of a nation that has been digging big holes in the ground to extract all manner of metals and minerals for more than 100 years, but Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is telling the public there that gas has a key role to play as a flexible source of energy that will help smooth the energy transition by delivering electricity to people when they need it.

I suppose there is nothing overtly offensive in that stance, although we never seem to get a fixed timeframe for when the switch has been made completely and forever.

Back to rail and why it could play a worthwhile role during the next decade or two in our move away from fossil fuels.

According to a recent study, rail produces about 25 per cent of trucking emissions. Trucking accounts for an estimated 80 per cent of New Zealand’s heavy goods transport. These numbers are not surprising, given the expansion of the road network.

A shift to less energy-intensive freight transport modes such as coastal shipping and rail represents a possible pathway to reducing fossil-fuel dependency. Exactly how we achieve that remains to be seen.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

Related Articles

- Advertisement -
overcast clouds
15.1 ° C
15.1 °
14.9 °
55 %
99 %
14 °
17 °
19 °
18 °
19 °